Dead & Company launched its 24-date Dead Forever residency at Las Vegas’ Sphere in eye-popping fashion Thursday night, using the technological marvel to both celebrate the band's nearly 60-year history and extend its legacy as one of rock’s most audacious live acts.

You can see photos, fan-shot video and the complete set list from the show below.

The 200-minute, 19-song show kickstarted the third live engagement and second multi-weekend residency at Sphere, which shares an owner (James Dolan) with favorite Grateful Dead/Dead & Company tour stop, Madison Square Garden. Last year, Dead & Company finished its 10th and final tour at Oracle Park in the band’s home turf of San Francisco. However, it publicly maintained that future performances were still possible, opening the door for the two-month Las Vegas stint. After an initial 18 Sphere dates sold well — though not sold out, which explains the availability of tickets under face value on secondary sale sites — the band added six more, for a total of eight three-day weekends through July.

The sextet — boasting two longtime Grateful Dead members, guitarist/vocalist Bob Weir and drummer Mickey Hart — made tremendous use of Sphere’s 160,000-square-foot interior screen and the band’s iconography throughout the entire show. It appeared that D&C’s visual content creators were heavily inspired by how Sphere’s first resident act, U2, used large-scale photography and video to make the audience feel it was outside the venue. A gaggle of famous Dead characters — the colorful dancing bears, the terrapins, the skull and roses — popped up in several numbers, the most vibrant being Uncle Sam Skeleton joyriding through a technicolor valley during “Hell in a Bucket.”

In what may have been the show’s biggest moment — and after opener “Feel Like a Stranger” was visually complemented with a scaffolded digital skin that made Sphere appear still under construction — the screen space behind the stage parted to reveal the band’s original San Francisco house in the Haight Ashbury district. As D&C played “Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo,” the venue seemed to “lift” over the house and above the Bay Area, until the band and audience were among stars in space. Dead & Company would return to the space motif a few times, predictably during Mickey Hart’s traditional solo number “Space,” and toward the end during a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door” when the “Mississippi Half-Step” artistic sequence was played in reverse, bringing everyone back to the Grateful Dead house.

Watch Dead & Company Perform at the Sphere

While the crowd shuffled in place while craning their necks to get as much of the giant screen into their line of sight, the band held a mostly easygoing groove — thanks largely to bassist Oteil Burbridge — before and during its exploratory jams. Weir and lead guitarist John Mayer traded off vocals while also layering melodic instrumental flourishes with keyboardist and longtime Weir bandmate Jeff Chimenti. On the rear risers, Hart kept time with fellow percussionist Jay Lane, who replaced original Grateful Dead skinsman Bill Kreutzmann in 2023.

At the residency’s announcement, the musicians promised to perform unique set lists for each of the three weekend shows, per longtime band practice. What remains to be seen — at least until next weekend — is whether D&C change up those set lists for subsequent weekends.

Dead fans have a varied surfeit of ancillary shows and activities to enjoy throughout Las Vegas’ tourist corridor during the entire residency, including late-night shows by other acts, two different outdoor “Shakedown Street” marketplaces, a large Dead-centric exhibition inside the Venetian hotel-casino, and even a nightly pre-party at one of the city’s new cannabis consumption lounges, Smoke and Mirrors.

As for the Sphere, no forthcoming performers have been officially announced, though news reports claim the Eagles will become fall/winter residents, and country superstar Zac Brown all but announced on comedian Theo Von’s podcast earlier this week that he’s got a Sphere residency lined up for 2025.

Watch Dead & Company Perform at the Sphere

Mike Prevatt is a producer and writer for Nevada Public Radio in Las Vegas.

Dead & Company Sphere Opening Night Photos

The group kicks off their 'Dead Forever' residency with a dazzling visual show.

Gallery Credit: Matthew Wilkening

Dead & Company, Las Vegas Sphere, May 16, 2024 Set List

1. "Feel Like a Stranger"
2. "Mississippi Half-Step Uptown Toodeloo"
3. "Jack Straw"
4. "Bird Song"
5. "Me and My Uncle"
6. "Brown-Eyed Woman"
7. "Cold Rain and Snow"
8. "Uncle John's Band"
9. "Help on the Way"
10. "Slipknot!"
11. "Franklin's Tower"
12. "He's Gone"
13. "Drums"
14. "Space"
15. "Standing on the Moon"
16. "St. Stephen"
17. "Hell in a Bucket"
18. "Knockin' on Heaven's Door"
19. "Not Fade Away"

Watch Dead & Company Perform 'Hell in a Bucket'

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